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Reviews

Os Mutantes
Haih Or Amortecedor Julian Marszalek , September 9th, 2009 12:14

The vexed question of the validity or necesssity of band reunions has been well chronicled within the pixelated pages of The Quietus, yet here we're confronted with the re-grouping of musicians with a fearsome reputation to live up to. As prime movers of Brazil's Tropicalia movement in the late 1960s with a legacy that lingers to this very day – Beck, David Byrne and The Flaming Lips are just some of the artists who cite the trio as a key influence – Os Mutantes carry a weight that's probably heavier than most.

Joined by fellow Tropicalistas Tom Ze and Jorge Ben, the current line-up of Os Mutantes – original vocalist Rita Lee has been replaced by Bia Mendes - has delivered an album that's as inventive, joyous and plain out-there as the music that cemented their reputation. Granted, you'll be hard pushed to find anything to match the peerless 'A Minha Menina' or 'Ando Meio Desligado' but their grasp of psychedelic dynamics and objectives remains undiminished.

The layers of percussive sound, guitars and brass on 'Querida Querida' build methodically to create a whirlwind of chanting and no little menace; buried beneath the swirls of sun-drenched noise is a sense of unwilling surrender. Similarly, the faux-lounge ease of 'Baghdad Blues' lulls the listener into a false sense of security that gives rise to sense of dread.

Elsewhere, 'Anagrama' is an exercise in easy listening that's at once haunting and evocative: it conjures images of cocktails and stone-clad bars punctuated with the deceptive smiles of an advertising hoarding. There are genuinely freaky workouts at play here too. Throughout '2000 E Agarrum' ideas collide, each slugging it out to take dominance like a procession of auditionees fighting for pole position.

Nevertheless, Os Mutantes know when to play it straight. The conventional and melodically glorious pop that characterises 'O Mensageiro' offers respite as much as it does another facet of their sonic arsenal. Most importantly, though, Os Mutantes have succeeded in harnessing the sheer joie de vivre and capacity for subversive playfulness that made them so attractive and so threatening the first time around.

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